Why you shouldn’t let celebrities read to your kids
Storytelling should not be left to electronic babysitters with experts warning against the rise of digital stories on websites where celebrities read children's books out loud.
While technology has improved our lives in many ways, literacy specialists warn that nothing beats the lifelong value of reading a conventional book.
International platform Storylineonline receives over 100 million views annually and Australian company Story Box Library has more than 1400 subscriptions from the education sector, 130 from libraries and more than 1000 from families across Australia - but experts warn digital channels should be used to supplement, not replace.
Even just 10 minutes of reading a night can generate lifelong cognitive benefits and studies have showed early shared reading, an adult reading to a child, at two and three years of age is linked to academic achievement later in life.
Australian Catholic University's Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education researcher Ameneh Shahaeian - who did research using NAPLAN scores and reading habits to predict academic success - said reading to a child at any age helps cognitive development.
"Language development, critical thinking, problem solving, memory - basically anything that comes under the umbrella of cognitive development," she said.
"The more parents read to children and earlier they start the children do better in their cognitive development and that has been quite well established."
She said the advantages of reading 'in real life' far outweighed the convenience of online channels with children able to interact and ask questions or say if they don't understand something.
But the Melbourne founder of Story Box Library Nicole Brownlee said the rise of the digital story is enormously popular, particularly with schools, libraries and time-poor parents.
"I don't see it as something that replaces reading - that is here to stay but we are doing something different, a digital companion, by adding value to the initial story," she said.
"This is an alternative way and more modern. We also offer, particularly useful in schools, extra information that is available about the author or illustrator.
"I was originally concerned about the outsourcing factor but we have found it's circular, in most cases parents are not turning to Story Box Library instead of a book but in conjunction with. We also have examples of children who have been turned onto reading because of it.
"As much as we like to think everybody has the time to read to their children unfortunately it is just not the case so we are offering this as an alternative to time poor parents.
"We all know children like to listen to books again and again so it is a great opportunity to take the pressure off when a child wants to read a book for the 150th time," she said.
Melbourne's Australian Catholic University's literacy expert Dr Matthew Zbaracki said he read to his children in utero because of the advantage of a child hearing their parents' voice.
"There is great value on reading out loud to children and reading with your child starting at a very young age," he said.
"A lot of research that has been done on the amount exposure to books will influence their success when they get to school. Those who don't have it already start behind," he said.
He said in terms of digital stories being able to see pictures and flick back through pages if needs be could not be replaced.
"Interaction with text is a key," he said.
"You need to instil that love of reading and e books, audio books, Storybox - those things are fine but you would never want them to be a replacement for what reading is."
But he recommended if using digital storytelling to use a resource like Story Box Library where authors read their own books, rather than celebrities.
"When you hear that voice actually read the words the way they wrote them it is much more powerful."
Goodstart's Lisa Palethorpe, Early Learning Project Officer said they ensure reading happens regularly in their childcare centres across the country.
"Being together sharing a book can really enable children and their educators/parents to grow closer together as these moments are rich for learning and supporting a child's emotional development," she said.
News Corp Australia is launching The Great Australian Storybook Collection. Get your first book (Thelma the Unicorn) and a collector's case from February 8.